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Crawford, Broderick

CRAWFORD, Broderick



Nationality: American. Born: William Broderick Crawford in Philadelphia, 9 December 1911. Son of the actress Helen Broderick. Education: Dean Academy, Franklin, Massachusetts, 1924–28. Military Service: 1942–45—served as sergeant in U.S. Army Air Force. Family: Married 1) the actress Joan Tabor (divorced), son: Kim; 2) the actress Kay Griffith, 1940, children: Lauren and Kelly; two later marriages. Career: 1928–30—after high school, joined parents in Max Gordon's vaudeville unit; c. 1932–36—appeared occasionally on radio; c. 1934—legitimate stage debut in London production of She Loves Me Not; 1935—Broadway debut in Point Valaine; 1937—contract with MGM: film debut in Woman Chases Man; 1949—starring role in All the King's Men; contract with Columbia; 1955–59—starred in syndicated TV series Highway Patrol; 1960s—in many Italian and Spanish Westerns and adventure films; 1961–62—in syndicated TV series King of Diamonds; 1970–71—in TV series The Interns; 1974—on Broadway in That Championship Season; late 1970s—guest host of Saturday Night Live. Awards: Best Actor Academy Award, and Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for All the King's Men, 1949. Died: In Rancho Mirage, California, 26 April 1986.

Films as Actor:

1937

Woman Chases Man (Blystone); Submarine D-1 (Bacon)

1938

Start Cheering (Rogell)

1939

Ambush (Neumann); Sudden Money (Grinde); Undercover Doctor (Louis King); Island of Lost Men (Neumann); Beau Geste (Wellman); The Real Glory (Hathaway); Eternally Yours (Garnett)

1940

Slightly Honorable (Garnett); I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby (Rogell); When the Daltons Rode (Marshall); Seven Sinners (Garnett); Trail of the Vigilantes (Dwan); The Texas Rangers Ride Again (Hogan)

1941

The Black Cat (Rogell); Tight Shoes (Rogell) (as Speedy Miller); Badlands of Dakota (Green); South of Tahiti (Waggner)

1942

North to the Klondike (Kenton); Butch Minds the Baby (Rogell) (as Aloysius "Butch" Grogan); Larceny, Inc. (Bacon); Broadway (Seiter); Men of Texas (Men of Destiny) (Enright); Sin Town (Enright); Keeping Fit (Lubin—short)

1946

The Runaround (Lamont); The Black Angel (Neill)

1947

Slave Girl (Lamont); The Flame (Auer)

1948

The Time of Your Life (Potter); Sealed Verdict (Allen); Bad Men of Tombstone (Neumann)

1949

Night unto Night (Siegel); A Kiss in the Dark (Daves); Anna Lucasta (Rapper); All the King's Men (Rossen) (as Willie Stark)

1950

Cargo to Capetown (McEvoy); Convicted (Levin); Born Yesterday (Cukor) (as Harry Brock)

1951

The Mob (Remember That Face) (Parrish)

1952

Lone Star (Sherman); Scandal Sheet (The Dark Page) (Karlson); Last of the Comanches (The Sabre and the Arrow) (de Toth); Stop, You're Killing Me (Del Ruth)

1953

The Last Posse (Werker)

1954

Night People (Johnson); Human Desire (Fritz Lang); Down Three Dark Streets (Laven)

1955

Big House, U.S.A. (Koch); New York Confidential (Rouse); Not as a Stranger (Kramer); Il bidone (The Swindlers) (Fellini); Man on a Bus (Lewis—for United Jewish Appeal Fund)

1956

The Fastest Gun Alive (Rouse); Between Heaven and Hell (Fleischer)

1958

The Decks Ran Red (Stone)

1960

La vendetta di Ercole (Goliath and the Dragon; The Revenge of Hercules) (Cottafavi)

1961

Nasilje na trgu (Square of Violence) (Bercovici)

1962

Convicts Four (Reprieve) (Kaufman); The Castilian (Setó)

1964

A House Is Not a Home (Rouse)

1965

Up from the Beach (Parrish); Kid Rodelo (Carlson)

1966

The Oscar (Rouse); El escuadró de la muerte (Per un dollaro di gloria; Mutiny at Fort Sharp) (Cerchio); The Texican (Selander); The Vulture (Huntington)

1967

Red Tomahawk (Springsteen)

1970

Wie kommt ein so reizendes Mädchen zu diesem Gewerbe? (How Did a Nice Girl Like You Get into This Business?) (Tremper); Maharlika (Hopper); The Challenge (Smithee—for TV)

1971

A Tattered Web (Wendkos—for TV)

1972

Embassy (Hessler); House of Dracula's Daughter (Hessler); The Candidate (Ritchie) (as voice)

1973

Hell's Bloody Devils (Smashing the Crime Syndicate) (Adamson); Terror in the Wax Museum (Fenady); The Adventures of Nick Carter (Krasny—for TV)

1974

The Phantom of Hollywood (Levitt—for TV)

1976

Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (Winner); Mayday at Forty Thousand Feet (Butler—for TV); Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (O'Steen—for TV)

1977

The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (J. Edgar Hoover) (Cohen) (title role); Ningen no shomei (Proof of the Man) (Sato)

1979

A Little Romance (George Roy Hill) (as Brod); Supertrain (Curtis—for TV)

1980

Harlequin (Wincer); There Goes the Bride (Marcel)

1981

The Upper Crust (Patzak)

1982

Liar's Moon (Fisher)



Publications


On CRAWFORD: articles—

Herald Tribune (New York), 28 November 1937.

"Broderick Crawford" in Current Biography, New York, 1950.

Howard, T. "All the King's Men," Reid's Film Index (Australia), no. 16, 1995.


* * *

During the Eisenhower era, Broderick Crawford was everyone's favorite "authority figure" on television. With his bulldog face and barking voice, he roared down the highway after lawbreakers as Chief Dan Matthews in Highway Patrol. Prior to his television success, however, it was Crawford's performance as Willie Stark in the film All the King's Men that had established his reputation as an actor. As the honest country lawyer who becomes a ruthless demagogue, Crawford is frighteningly convincing in his transformation of character. His physical gifts as an actor—the beefy physique, the aggressive stance, the gruff voice—were never more perfectly exploited than in his portrayal of the dichotomous nature of Stark. Crawford's intelligent performance will always stand as a model interpretation of how power can corrupt the individual. He was later to draw on this same persona in his perversely sympathetic portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover in Larry Cohen's The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover, a comic book-style fantasy that depicts Hoover as a sexually repressed neurotic who freely violated the law.

After his screen debut in 1937 Crawford appeared in supporting roles and as an occasional lead in "B" pictures such as Sin Town and The Runaround. It was his experience in vaudeville and on Broadway that prepared him for his success in his first lead roles, as Speedy Miller in Tight Shoes and Aloysius "Butch" Grogan in Butch Minds the Baby. In these two broad theatrical comedies by Damon Runyon, Crawford established himself as the quintessential Runyon hero—the soft-hearted, streetwise mobster. His familiarity with the underworld personality, the result of his portrayal of these amiable rogues, served him well when he gave a brilliant comic performance as Harry Brock, the arrogant self-made tycoon in Born Yesterday.

Crawford is never more likable than when he plays against type, as in The Time of Your Life (a melancholy policeman), Not as a Stranger (a cynical doctor), and The Real Glory (an officer who loves orchids). The subtlety of his performance in these offbeat roles tends to be overshadowed by his more familiar image as a screen heavy, the raging psychopath, as in The Scandal Sheet, New York Confidential, Big House, U.S.A., and The Fastest Gun Alive, in which he plays a trigger-happy desperado who must compulsively and continually prove his manhood with a gun.

Apart from his acclaimed performances in All the King's Men, Born Yesterday, and The Mob (in which he plays a tough undercover cop), however, most of Crawford's fine work has been ignored by critics. Two of his most memorable performances are in this category: Fritz Lang's Human Desire and Federico Fellini's Il bidone. In the Lang film, Crawford commands pity and fear as the tormented railway engineer driven to insane jealousy and murder by his unfaithful wife. In the Fellini film, he is eloquent and moving as the petty thief who attempts to redeem himself for the sake of his adoring daughter. The tragic final image of Il bidone, Crawford alone and dying on a deserted mountain road, is one of the most heartrending in the history of the cinema.

—Jeff Stafford

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